Friday, January 4, 2013

A busy January for the Interfaith Action Initiative

In this post: 1). Discussion of Newtown tragedy at NBIAI meeting; 2). Caregiver Resource Guide Available; 3). Interfaith Service for Mental Illness Recovery & Understanding. 4). Pantry going strong; 2012 statistics.

Discussion of Newtown tragedy at NBIAI meeting

After taking a break in December, the Initiative will hold its next monthly meeting on Friday, Jan. 18, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams (use Eagle Street entrance). 

Following introductions, announcements, a moment of silent prayer and faith sharing, we will discuss the December tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., from a faith perspective.

All are welcome to come and share their thoughts and feelings in an informal and respectful discussion on how, in the aftermath of this horrible event, we view our place in the world, our relations to others, our thoughts about good and evil, and our vision of and relationship with God.

Those attending also will be able to pick up a copy of the second editon of The Northern Berkshire Caregiver Resource Guide, fully revised and updated. Refreshements will be available.

We owe the idea for this topic to Pastor Kim Kie of the New Hope Methodist Church, who suggested this topic to me after the taping of the January edition of the Initiative TV program, “In the Company of Friends.” (More on this below.)

Caregiver Resource Guide Available

As noted above, the second edition of the “Northern Berkshire Family Caregiver Resource Guide” is now available, a product of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. Coalition Communications Coordinator Bert Lamb has done a great job both updating the original guide and in making it much more attractive than the original.

The 12-page guide features an introduction; listings for adult day services/respite care, assisted living, councils on aging, education, financial support or referrals, services in the home, support groups; and also a listing of helpful national websites, and books about caregiving.

The guide will be available both at the Jan. 18 NBIAI meeting and at the Friendship Center Food Pantry during our hours of operation. They also can be obtained from the Coalition, 663-7588 or from me, Mark Rondeau, 664-0130.

Service for Mental Illness Recovery & Understanding

On Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m., all are welcome to an interfaith service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding at New Hope Methodist Church in Williamstown (located in the former TGL Photoworks building) at the corner of Main and Water Streets. This will be an informal, 45-minute service with candle-lighting and a brief presentation. New Hope is a bright, non-churchy setting with a welcoming atmosphere.

This event grew out of a presentation at our September, 2012, Interfaith meeting by Kathy Quinn, a family advocate with the Berkshire affiliate of The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Our discussion centered around the role faith communities can play to acknowledge the issue and offer support to individuals and families. Kathy provided us with a packet of information from NAMI — a “Mental Illness Awareness Week Faith Tool Kit” — on how faith communities could plan a vigil for those affected by mental illness.

On the January edition of the NBIAI cable access TV show, “In the Company of Friends,” on Channel 15, aired this month on Fridays at 5 p.m. and Mondays at 1 p.m., the Rev. Kim Kie, pastor of New Hope, talks about plans for this interfaith service.

We are grateful to Pastor Kim for stepping up to provide a venue for this service and in taking the lead in planning it. Here is some of what she had to say on the TV program:

“We’re thrilled to be asked, we volunteered our space because we are not a [traditional church setting], so we don’t have a lot of things attached to the wall and installed altars and things that might make people uncomfortable who are not part of a faith community or to preference one faith tradition over another.

“So we have that great flexibilty and a wonderful new space and a good location — that was why we stepped forward.”

She said that Rev. Peter Elvin from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown also has been working on the service; some members of First Congregational Church in Williamstown have been giving input; and Rev. Dave Anderson of First Baptist in North Adams is also involved.

“I expect some others will be stepping forward and participating,” she said.

Pastor Kim said the planners liked the idea of a vigil offered in the NAMI packet of service options.

“There are seven candles: one for truth, healing, understanding, hope, thankfulness, faith, and love. “And so what we’re doing is we’re having a reading to go with each one. Some of the readings are from sacred scriptures of different faith traditions, some are just contemporary poetry or older, familiar poetry that builds on that theme, and then lighting the candle,” she said. “Then there’s also an opportunity for people to come forward and light a candle themselves” for an individual intention.

There will be live background music throughout the service, alternating with periods of silence for people to reflect. And Kathy Quinn will talk about what NAMI does and the services that are available to help people who are either confronting a mental illness themselves or supporting a family member.

In the future, we hope to help present such a service every year during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which is marked during the second week of October. 

Again, the service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding will be held on Sunday, Jan. 27,  at New Hope Methodist Church, at the corner of Main and Water Streets in Williamstown. The service will begin at 7 p.m. and last for about 45 minutes. All are welcome.

For additional information, contact Mark at 664-0130.

Pantry going strong; 2012 statistics

We’ve developed a tradition during the almost two years the NBIAI has run the Friendship Center Food Pantry that in the early evening of every Wednesday, Food Distribution Director Mark Lincourt emails several of us the total number of households who have come to the Friendship Center during its morning and evening session, the resulting total, and how many new members we added that day.

We add families from North Adams, Clarksburg or Florida every week and we now have about 1,200 member households. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, we set a new record, serving 120 families in our first session and 66 in our afternoon session for a total of 186 for the day. Demand has been so high, that we have begun opening an hour earlier every Wednesday, at 10 a.m., instead of at 11 a.m. as before, and continuing to 2 p.m. Our evening hours remain 4 to 6 p.m.

To keep our members from having to stand outside during the bitter cold, we just this past Wednesday started to utilize the First Baptist Church of North Adams as a warm place to sign people in. (See previous post here for more details).

We also continue to be the recipient of many generous donations of food and financial support from the community — I just today picked up several hundred pounds of food donated by students at the Clarksburg Elementary School.

And we continue attract new volunteers in addition to a large core of weekly stalwarts who make the Friendship Center a joy to visit.

Here are some statistics for 2012 based on the number of households we served each week:

1). We had a total of 6,581 household visits in 2012, 68 percent of these were during our morning session and 32 percent during our late afternoon/evening session.

2). In December 2011, we averaged 67 households in our first session and 29 in our second session, for an average total of 95. In December 2012, we averaged 93 households in our first session, 36 in our second session for an average total of 128. This gives a good idea of the level of increased visitors.

3). Our average number of households served for the whole year were 86 for the first session and 41 for the second session and a total of 127 served per week.

4). Our busiest weeks were:

1). Nov. 28: 120 + 66 = 186

2). Oct. 24: 131 + 53 = 184

3). Sept. 26: 115 + 53 = 168

4). Dec. 19: 123 + 44 = 167

5) May 30: 96 + 63 = 159.

Thanks for reading this and God Bless You All! And hope to see you soon!


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